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and life along the winding road

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dancing on my Grave by Gelsey Kirkland

Dancing on My Grave is an autobiography by Gelsey Kirkland spanning her life as a ballerina. Coming from a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father and constant battles with her sister, Ms. Kirkland enters the high pressure world of dance. She begins her career at a young age with George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet where both her body and mind were stretched to the limit. She talks about her efforts to shine, even though she didn't feel her looks were worthy of attention. She rectified that by plastic surgery, eating very little and at most times maintaining a weight of under 100 lbs. (George Ballenchine insisted that his dancers be thin enough for their ribs to show). Partnered with Mikhail Baryshnikov, after he defected from Russia, their dancing was said to be in perfect harmony. Eventually, she was introduced to drugs. It was Greg Lawrence, who co-wrote the book and she later married, who helped her to overcome her drug addiction. Through all her struggles she continued to be devoted to her craft as a ballet dancer which can only be described as an obsession.

Dancing on my Grave was a book club choice from one of our members who was, for many years, a ballet instructor. She said that while she thinks ballet is wonderful for young girls to learn discipline and control, she has always discouraged her students from pursuing ballet as a career. She said it is every bit as grueling and competitive as the book suggests.

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